Stale show 

Death of a Salesman
Indiana Repertory Theatre
Directed by Tim Ocel
Through March 24

The most compelling aspect of the Indiana Repertory Theatre’s production of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman is the set, which was designed by Erhard Rom. The angular placement of walls and the large, horizontal tree that seems to be growing out of the wings reflects Willy Loman’s distorted perspective.

Kenneth Albers does a fine job of capturing Willy’s state of mind, a mixture of depression, disillusionment and early-onset Alzheimer’s. Pricilla Lindsay is always a pleasure to see on stage, here as the long-suffering Linda, Willy’s wife.

However, director Tim Ocel has Ryan Artzberger and Andrew Ahrens, as sons Biff and Happy, respectively, performing as caricatures of 1950s young people, with affected movements and reactions. Often they seem forced into their characters. Stage blocking is odd, as well, with characters seeming to enter and exit areas at random.

Otherwise, sound, lighting and costumes are very apropos for creating the setting and mood of individual scenes and the whole of the production.

So, while this is an OK interpretation of the play, I still left the theater agitated.

In the playbill, Artistic Director Janet Allen writes, “Arguably the single most influential play in the American classic icon, Salesman leaves a long line of famous productions and critical controversy in its 57-year wake … Theatre historians redefined tragedy with Death of a Salesman to allow for the tragedy of the common man.”

For this generation of theater-goers, instead of revolutionary, the show is tedious. Not only because it is a play that is studied in almost every high school and college English class, but because it is a subject matter we are all too familiar with now. The play’s potency for us 20- and 30-somethings is diluted. While honoring the classics has its place, giving them a fresh perspective is more alluring for people with so many entertainment options.

Here, the IRT gives us a straightforward interpretation of the play, and as such, my fellow 30-something guest and I were rooting for Willy to off himself so the show would be over. In contrast to the wonderful production of Twelfth Night on the IRT’s Upperstage, this show is stale.

Death of a Salesman continues through March 24. Tickets begin at $34: 317-635-5252.

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